Tuesday, March 8, 2016

10 Things I Learned in My First Week of Meal Planning

The grocery store is really crowded on Sunday afternoons.

Last week we went to the gym around 9am, headed home, picked out the recipes and decided to wait until about 4 or 5 to head to the grocery, thinking the "after-church" crowd would be back at home by then. Well, maybe they were, but around 4 or 5 the "we went home after church and took a nap and now we're at the grocery" crowd was there, in fulllll swing, kids in tow. 
This week, I picked out the recipes before we went to the gym, so that we were able to get to the grocery by about 10am. With a lengthy list we were there for about an hour or more and it started to get a little busier, but still nothing compared to last week. 
Takeaway: Go as early as reasonably possible, or wait until 8pm. Unless of course you enjoy large crowds, people blocking entire aisles with their carts, and children running wild. 

If the package says "Hot" Italian Sausage, take is seriously.

Two of our recipes last week called for Italian sausage. Fair warning - there are different levels of heat when it comes to Italian sausage. Luckily my husband and I both enjoy spicy foods, and spice is a great way to add flavor when you're trying to keep the calories down. That being said, if you are not the type who enjoys some added heat to the dish, read the labels. 
Takeaway: Even in a crowded grocery, it is worth reading the labels. 

Be thorough when making your grocery list.

One recipe called for canned cherry tomatoes, which honestly I didn't even know existed. Well, when I made the list, I only wrote/typed "cherry tomatoes," thinking I would remember. Turns out I didn't remember, and didn't even get regular cherry tomatoes. It may be time consuming while you're making the list, but it is better to spend time on the list than spend time going back to the grocery for something you forgot.
Takeaway: Take your time making the list, it will payoff when you get home (and don't have to go back out).

I have no idea what fennel is.

And the jury is still out on this one. 
Takeaway: If you aren't sure of an ingredient, look it up before  you are in a crowded grocery trying to google it on your phone. 

Crock Pots should be turned on before you go to work.

Because the few Crock Pot recipes we chose only required 4 hours, rather than a full day of 6 or 8 we got in the habit of just waiting to mix it all when we got home. Well even at 4 hours, that still meant we weren't eating until 9 or 10 at night. On some days that's fine, but more than a couple of times a week and it starts to show. Not to mention I tend to get a little hangry if I don't eat soon enough after work or the gym. 
Takeaway: Use your Crock Pot to its full potential! If a recipe says to cook it on high for 4 hours, almost always you can cook it on low for 8. Even after just one meal this week, I can tell you it is so nice to walk into the house and smell the dinner that has been cooking all day. 

You'll be surprised how well certain recipes turn out.

Seriously. There are chefs who can make amazing creations without looking at a cookbook, and then there are the rest of us. If you follow the recipe, you can make something delicious that people will ask for more of. 
Takeaway: Don't be afraid to try something new. 

It feels really great to finally make a recipe from a magazine.

I have been getting the Food Network Magazine for about three years and I love it, and every month I say I'm going to make something from it, and then the next month comes and the cycle continues. Well y'all, I finally did it. I finally made a recipe from the pages of the magazine and it was delicious! 
Takeaway: When you are planning your meals for the week YOU are in control, so find that recipe you bookmarked three months ago and add it to your list. 

Meal planning is only efficient if you can pre-prepare some items.

Last week we bought (almost) all of the items we needed on Sunday, but that was where it ended. We were still left each night to cook and prepare the meal for that day. While it was convenient to have all of the ingredients available for a different home cooked meal every night, it still meant that we were preparing, cooking, and cleaning up every. single. night. 
Takeaway: Do as much as you can on Sunday to prepare your meals for the week. Even if it is just chopping up all of the onions, or making the enchilada sauce, every little bit helps and is one less think you'll have to do the day of.

Don't use a new grocery app for the first time when you're making a big trip to the grocery.

I just downloaded an app called GroceryGadget. It is really easy to use and lets you make shopping lists that you can share with your friends and family. It also allows you to save different lists, so if you have an occasion that you cook for often enough and make generally the same things, the list will be saved and ready whenever you need it. I think it can be a very useful app. However, I downloaded it Saturday night and used it for the first time Sunday. It is relatively intuitive, but not that intuitive. And there were some items that I could not find on the pre-made lists - which led to the Cherry Tomato issue addressed above. And then we became the people blocking the aisles because I couldn't figure out how to find the ingredients. 
Takeaway: A good old fashioned paper list is just fine, and probably preferred. I don't know about you, but I get a lot more satisfaction making something off of a list with my pen than I do clearing it from a screen. 

Crock Pot's can get really messy.

It is nice to use a Crock Pot or other slow cooker because it is doing all of the work for you. You don't have to watch for something to boil, or continue to stir, or whatever else. But, you are still left at the end of the day with a huge pot to clean, and depending on the meal, some baked on food you have to scrape off. This can especially be an issue if you have a few days in a row of Slow Cooker meals and can't just leave it in the sink for the next day's dishes. 
Takeaway: SEE BELOW. Game. Changer. 

BONUS: Crock Pot liners exist. 

Do yourself a favor and pick up a pack of these. The ones I have linked are less expensive than the Reynolds ones, and as far as reviews go, they seem to be just as good. Either way, you will thank  yourself when dinner is over and clean up only takes 5 minutes. 

I mentioned yesterday, I really did enjoy having all of the meals planned for the week and a new dinner every night, but there were obviously some things I would have, and will do differently moving forward. What did you learn when you started meal planning? Or what do you wish someone had told you before? 

Have a great day, y'all! 

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1 comment:

  1. What? How come I never knew about crock pot liners before this? haha I need them in my life like now!

    Justine @ Charm City Ciemny's